David Howells

UTAS Home Professor David Howells

David Howells

Professor in Neurosciences and Brain Plasticity

Medical Sciences Precinct , Hobart CBD Campuses

+61 3 6226 4850 (phone)

When the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, the result, a condition called ischaemia, is often catastrophic. Ischaemia is thought to be a particularly important catalyst for both stroke and dementia, which are individually the two greatest medical threats to our ageing society. We have no drugs that effectively treat dementia, and only one drug to acutely treat stroke. Even this only works for a tiny percentage of stroke victims. In Australia, 50,000 people suffer a stroke every year, and the statistics are slightly higher for dementia. These are huge, huge numbers – tens of millions per year worldwide.

Eight-five per cent of strokes occur because blood supply to the brain is interrupted. New research suggests that blood supply to the brain is an important factor in the onset of dementia as well. Rather than the sudden ischaemias that result in stroke, long-term, subtler ischaemias can lead to dementia. For survivors of these diseases, the consequences are extremely expensive for society to manage, and devastating for victims and their families to deal with. Finding ways to treat these diseases is incredibly relevant to our future.

Professor David Howells is trying to understand how the brain responds when it becomes ischaemic and, ultimately, to find a drug that effectively treats these symptoms.

‘We know broadly what causes ischaemia, and the world has been very good at learning how to reduce those causes,’ says Professor Howells. ‘Over 50 years, the incidence of stroke, and the number of associated deaths, has plummeted.

‘What we are about is, if you have one, how do we make it better?’ he says. ‘Unless we understand the biology – that is, exactly what’s going on in the brain and the intricacies of those processes – we can’t fix it. Once we do understand, we can better identify drugs that can fix those problems.

‘We are still trying to understand how blood supply to the brain of people suffering dementia makes a difference.’

'Our research into stroke and dementia are both equally important parts of what we do.'

The one drug that is currently available to treat stroke victims is designed to reopen the blood vessels to the brain, so the effects of ischaemia are relieved. The drug doesn’t change any damage that’s already been done and is only administered once the patient gets to hospital.

‘The earlier the intervention, the smaller the impact will be,’ says Professor Howells. ‘If we can find something much safer that could be given in the ambulance, more people will get treated. Dementia accumulates over time, so the earlier we can intervene, the greater the chance we have of providing the most benefit.’

Professor Howells’s research involves developing models that allow his team to explore new possibilities safely without putting people at risk. Firstly, his team are developing models that use human brain cells. Secondly, it is vital to learn from past mistakes and understand why approaches that work in animals have failed to work in humans.

‘One of our major successes has been pointing out some of the shortcomings of animal research and providing some solutions, so in future our research will be better.’

Professor Howells knows that medical scientists have to be in for the long haul. ‘Tomorrow, we could stumble across the bit that puts all of the pieces of the puzzle together, or it could take much longer. But, what we do know, is that with every experiment we get a little bit closer.

‘We’re testing drug candidates now. Whether these will be the drugs that really work is difficult to say. My job is to build foundations and we’re slowly building this pyramid up so we can get to the point where we can treat these diseases. I might be lucky enough to put the last block on the top, but this is a global team effort.’

Professor Howells considers himself fortunate to have some incredibly bright and talented scientists on his team. Mentoring the next generation is a critical part of what he does.

‘And I love research. If that means I can do some good in the world, I’m a very lucky man. I can’t imagine being in a more privileged position than spending every day of my life learning.’

Professor Howells joined the University of Tasmania in 2015 as Professor in Neurosciences and Brain Plasticity for the School of Medicine. Prof Howells is one of the world's authorities on preclinical stroke research. His work is innovative and highly competitive allowing him to publish in the highest ranking journals and is highly supported by competitive National and International funding. His work is well regarded by his peers, leading to invitations to speak at prestigious scientific meetings and allowing him to contribute significantly to the direction of his field and to establish influential International collaborations.

Prof Howells aims to provide a research strategy that will improve preclinical translational success. This can be achieved by adopting a systematic approach to translational research. His research is designed to:

  1. Understand more about why it has proven to be so difficult to develop drugs for stroke
  2. Identify the best molecular targets for future intervention
  3. Employ novel techniques to identify the best available candidate drugs for these targets
  4. Exploit the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test the best candidates with the rigor required to justify progression to clinical trial


Professor Howells began his career at the University of London where he investigated the biochemical and genetic basis of dopamine and serotonin deficits in children. David relocated to Australia in 1988 to take up a Postdoctoral position at the Murdoch Institute in Melbourne where he progressed his work to become a senior scientist in the Enzymology/Metabolism laboratory. In 1992, David was made Head of the Neurogeneration Research Laboratory at the University of Melbourne.

Prior to joining the University of Tasmania, Prof Howells was a Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience, Melbourne (2010-). Through the course of his career David has established major international collaborations which pioneered the use of systematic review and meta-analysis to understand the difficulties basic science faces in translational medicine and developed the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test candidate drugs with the rigor required to justify clinical trial. David has led research projects that discovered a new population of dopamine neurons in humans; demonstrated a BDNF deficit in Parkinson's disease that also causes Parkinsonism in rats; discovered that macrophages/microglia promote and guide axonal regeneration; improved the modelling and assessment of stroke and spinal cord injury; and established a collaborative stroke biomarker discovery program.

Career summary


  • PhD, University of London, UK. 1988 Thesis: Analysis of pterins in children with neurological disease.
  • BSc (Hons), North East Surrey College of Technology, UK. 1984 Thesis: Effects of noradrenalin on the deiodination of thyroxine to tri-iodothyronine by brown adipose tissue of the rat.


Professional practice

  • American Society for Neural Transplantation and Repair
  • Australian Association of Neurologists
  • Australian Neuroscience Society
  • International Trauma Society
  • Society for Neuroscience, USA
  • Stroke Society of Australasia

Administrative expertise

Through his role as Associate Director, Member of the Executive and Head of the Stroke Division of The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health David held administrative responsibility for a team of 80 basic and clinical scientists.

Prof Howells reviews for the NHMRC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, Stroke Foundation and National Heart Foundation and is a regular member of the NZ HRC Neuroscience Expert Panel and has served on an NHMRC GRP. Prof Howells regularly reviews for 40 journals and is on the editorial boards of 5 journals. David is the Editor in Chief of Evidence Based Preclinical Medicine which was launched by Wiley in May 2014. In addition, David is a member of 3 international and 3 national discipline societies and have organised major scientific meetings for these bodies.

As an enthusiastic science communicator Prof Howells engages with the broader community through lectures to the general public and interviews to magazines and television. Prof Howells was responsible for the organisation of a Victorian Government sponsored public outreach program for school children.


neuroscience, brain plasticity, stroke, good-laboratory practice, systematic review

Research Appointments

  • Beijing Institute for Brain Disorders, Adjunct Professor, Facuty Member (2013-present)
  • Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand, College of Experts, Foundation Member (2012-present)
  • University of Melbourne FMHDS, Principle Research Fellow, Honorary (2012-present)
  • University of Melbourne & Florey Institute of Neuroscience, Scientific Services Management Committee Chairman (2012-present)
  • Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Heath, Stroke Division Head, Institute Management (2010-present)
  • Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Heath, Associate Director, Institute Management (2010-present)
  • Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand, Expert Panel Member (2008-2012)
  • Newcastle University Centre for Brain and Mental Health, Research Advisory Board, Board Member (2008-present)
  • NHMRC, Senior Research Fellow-B, Personal Award (2006-present)
  • University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (FMDHS), Equity and Staff Development Committee, Member (2006-2009)
  • University of Melbourne Dept of Medicine (Austin), Ph.D. Co-ordinator, Chairman (2005-2007)
  • Austin Biomedical Alliance Animal Facility, Technical Advisory Group, Member (2004-2006)
  • CCRE Clinical Research in Neuroscience Course, Development Committee, Member (2004-2006)
  • University of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine Grant Mentoring Scheme, Member (2004-2010)
  • Austin Health, Animal House Users Committee, Chairman (2002-2004)
  • National Stroke Research Institute, Management Committee, Member (2001-2010)
  • Austin Hospital, Animal House Management Committee, Member (2004-2008)
  • NHMRC, Senior Research Fellow-A, Personal Award (2001-2006)
  • National Stroke Research Institute, Intellectual Property Committee, Member (2003-2010)

View more on Professor David Howells in WARP


  • Neuroscience
  • Brain Plasticity
  • Axonal regeneration
  • Stroke
  • Translational research
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Biomarker discovery

Research Themes

Prof Howells's research interests are strongly aligned with the University's key theme of Better Health.


Prof Howells has established major international collaborations which pioneered the use of systematic review and meta-analysis to understand the difficulties basic science faces in translational medicine and developed the world's first multinational stroke research consortium to test candidate drugs with the rigor required to justify clinical trial.

Fields of Research

  • Central nervous system (320903)
  • Neurology and neuromuscular diseases (320905)
  • Cardiology (incl. cardiovascular diseases) (320101)
  • Neurosciences (320999)
  • Systems physiology (320803)
  • Health services and systems (420399)
  • Clinical sciences (320299)
  • Basic pharmacology (321401)
  • Cellular nervous system (320902)
  • Signal transduction (310111)
  • Medical biotechnology diagnostics (incl. biosensors) (320602)
  • Orthopaedics (320216)
  • Cell neurochemistry (310104)
  • Autonomic nervous system (320901)
  • Nanomedicine (320604)
  • Medical physics (510502)
  • Sensory systems (320907)
  • Cancer cell biology (321101)
  • Cellular interactions (incl. adhesion, matrix, cell wall) (310105)
  • Radiology and organ imaging (320222)

Research Objectives

  • Clinical health (200199)
  • Expanding knowledge in the health sciences (280112)
  • Expanding knowledge in the biomedical and clinical sciences (280103)
  • Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences (280102)
  • Treatment of human diseases and conditions (200105)
  • Diagnosis of human diseases and conditions (200101)


Prof Howells publishes frequently and in quality journals with over 140 peer-reviewed journal articles including recent papers in Nature and Lancet and in high ranking specialist journals such as Annals of Neurology and Stroke. In 2012 and 2013, he published 10 and 11 articles respectively including a Nature paper. In 2014 he published 13 papers including one in Lancet. 32 of his papers have been cited >50 times, and 14 >100 times. Prof Howells's work has been the subject of editorials in Nature, Annals of Neurology, Nature Clinical Practice, the Dow Jones, New Scientist and the UK Daily Telegraph.

Total publications


Journal Article

(43 outputs)
2021Foster CG, Landowski LM, Sutherland BA, Howells DW, 'Differences in fatigue-like behavior in the lipopolysaccharide and poly I:C inflammatory animal models', Physiology and Behavior, 232 pp. 1-10. ISSN 0031-9384 (2021) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2021.113347 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Foster CG; Landowski LM; Sutherland BA


2020Landowski LM, Niego B, Sutherland BA, Hagemeyer CE, Howells DW, 'Applications of Nanotechnology in the Diagnosis and Therapy of Stroke', Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis, 46, (5) pp. 592-605. ISSN 0094-6176 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-3399568 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Landowski LM; Sutherland BA


2020Nguyen VA, Riddell N, Crewther SG, Faou P, Rajapaksha H, et al., 'Longitudinal stroke recovery associated with dysregulation of complement system - A proteomics pathway analysis', Frontiers in Neurology, 11 pp. 1-12. ISSN 1664-2295 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2020.00692 [eCite] [Details]


2020Premilovac D, Blackwood SJ, Ramsay C, Keske MA, Howells DW, et al., 'Transcranial contrast-enhanced ultrasound in the rat brain reveals substantial hyperperfusion acutely post-stroke', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism pp. 1-15. ISSN 0271-678X (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/0271678X20905493 [eCite] [Details]

Co-authors: Premilovac D; Sutherland BA


2019Beard DJ, Hadley G, Thurley N, Howells DW, Sutherland BA, et al., 'The effect of rapamycin treatment on cerebral ischemia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of animal model studies', International journal of stroke, 14, (2) pp. 137-145. ISSN 1747-4930 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/1747493018816503 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Sutherland BA


2019Brown LS, Foster CG, Courtney JM, King NE, Howells DW, et al., 'Pericytes and Neurovascular Function in the Healthy and Diseased Brain', Frontiers in cellular neuroscience pp. 1-9. ISSN 1662-5102 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00282 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 54Web of Science - 53

Co-authors: Brown LS; Foster CG; Courtney JM; King NE; Sutherland BA


2019Landowski LM, Niego B, Sutherland BA, Hagemeyer CE, Howells D, 'Applications of nanotechnology in the diagnosis and therapy of stroke', Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis ISSN 0094-6176 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-3399568 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 4

Co-authors: Landowski LM; Sutherland BA


2018Antonic A, Dottori M, Macleod MR, Donnan GA, Howells DW, 'NXY-059, a failed stroke neuroprotectant, offers no protection to stem cell-derived human neurons', Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases, 27, (8) pp. 2158-2165. ISSN 1052-3057 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2018.03.015 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 10Web of Science - 10


2018Liu Y, Antonic A, Yang X, Korte N, Lim K, et al., 'Derivation of phenotypically diverse neural culture from hESC by combining adherent and dissociation methods', Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 308 pp. 286-293. ISSN 0165-0270 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2018.07.005 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2


2018Liu Y, Eaton ED, Wills TE, McCann SK, Antonic A, et al., 'Human ischaemic cascade studies using SH-SY5Y cells: a systematic review and meta-analysis', Translational Stroke Research, 9, (6) pp. 564-574. ISSN 1868-4483 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s12975-018-0620-4 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 14Web of Science - 12

Co-authors: Eaton ED


2018Makkawi M, Howells D, Wright MD, Jackson DE, 'A complementary role for tetraspanin superfamily member TSSC6 and ADP purinergic P2Y12 receptor in platelets', Thrombosis Research, 161 pp. 12-21. ISSN 0049-3848 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.thromres.2017.11.009 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2


2017Borschmann KN, Rewell SS, Iuliano S, Ghasem-Zadeh A, Davey RA, et al., 'Reduced bone formation markers, and altered trabecular and cortical bone mineral densities of non-paretic femurs observed in rats with ischemic stroke: A randomized controlled pilot study', PLoS ONE, 12, (3) Article e0172889. ISSN 1932-6203 (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172889 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3


2017Rewell SSJ, Jeffreys AL, Sastra SA, Cox SF, Fernandez JA, et al., 'Hypothermia revisited: Impact of ischaemic duration and between experiment variability', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 37, (10) pp. 3380-3390. ISSN 0271-678X (2017) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/0271678X16688704 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 6


2017Simonato M, Iyengar S, Brooks-Kayal A, Collins S, Depaulis A, et al., 'Identification and characterization of outcome measures reported in animal models of epilepsy: Protocol for a systematic review of the literature-A TASK2 report of the AES/ILAE Translational Task Force of the ILAE', Epilepsia, 58 pp. 68-77. ISSN 0013-9580 (2017) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1111/epi.13908 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 5


2016Nguyen VA, Carey LM, Giummarra L, Faou P, Cooke I, et al., 'A pathway proteomic profile of ischemic stroke survivors reveals innate immune dysfunction in association with mild symptoms of depression - a pilot study', Frontiers in Neurology, 7 Article 85. ISSN 1664-2295 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2016.00085 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 17Web of Science - 19


2016Watzlawick R, Rind J, Sena ES, Brommer B, Zhang T, et al., 'Olfactory ensheathing cell transplantation in experimental spinal cord injury: effect size and reporting bias of 62 experimental treatments: a systematic review and meta-analysis', PLoS Biology, 14, (5) Article e1002468. ISSN 1544-9173 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002468 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 43Web of Science - 41


2015Carey LM, Crewther S, Salvado O, Linden T, Connelly A, et al., 'STroke imAging pRevention and treatment (START): A longitudinal stroke cohort study: Clinical trials protocol', International journal of stroke : official journal of the International Stroke Society, 10, (4) pp. 636-44. ISSN 1747-4930 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ijs.12190 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 15Web of Science - 14


2015Kleikers PWM, Hooijmans C, Gob E, Langhauser F, Rewell SSJ, et al., 'A combined pre-clinical meta-analysis and randomized confirmatory trial approach to improve data validity for therapeutic target validation', Scientific Reports, 5 pp. 1-12. ISSN 2045-2322 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/srep13428 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 25Web of Science - 25


2015MacLeod MR, McLean AL, Kyriakopoulou A, Serghiou S, de Wilde A, et al., 'Risk of Bias in Reports of In Vivo Research: A Focus for Improvement', Public Library of Science Biology, 13, (11) Article e1002273. ISSN 1544-9173 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002273 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 139Web of Science - 149


2015McCann SK, Irvine C, Mead GE, Sena ES, Currie GL, et al., 'Efficacy of antidepressants in animal models of ischemic stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 45, (10) pp. 3055-63. ISSN 0039-2499 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.006304 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 42Web of Science - 39


2015Pascoe MC, Howells DW, Crewther DP, Carey LM, Crewther SG, 'Fish oil supplementation associated with decreased cellular degeneration and increased cellular proliferation 6 weeks after middle cerebral artery occlusion in the rat', Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11 pp. 153-164. ISSN 1176-6328 (2015) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.2147/NDT.S72925 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 5Web of Science - 4


2014Antonic A, Dottori M, Leung J, Sidon K, Batchelor PE, et al., 'Hypothermia protects human neurons', International Journal of Stroke, 9, (5) pp. 544-552. ISSN 1747-4930 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ijs.12224 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 18Web of Science - 18


2014Ardpradja K, Yeoh SD, O'Keefe G, Rigopoulos A, Howells DW, et al., 'Detection of activated platelets in a mouse model of carotid artery thrombosis with 18F-labeled single-chain antibodies', Nuclear Medicine and Biology, 41, (3) pp. 229-237. ISSN 0969-8051 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.nucmedbio.2013.12.006 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 14Web of Science - 13


2014Chalmers I, Bracken MB, Djulbegovic B, Garattini S, Grant J, et al., 'How to increase value and reduce waste when research priorities are set', The Lancet, 383, (9912) pp. 156-165. ISSN 0140-6736 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62229-1 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 691Web of Science - 626


2014Dagonnier M, Howells DW, Donnan GA, Dewey HM, 'Recruitment to trials of late thrombolysis: lessons from the EXTEND study', Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, 21, (7) pp. 1215-9. ISSN 0967-5868 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jocn.2013.10.033 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 1


2014Egan KJ, Janssen H, Sena ES, Longley L, Speare S, et al., 'Exercise reduces infarct volume and facilitates neurobehavioral recovery: results from a systematic review and meta-analysis of exercise in experimental models of focal ischemia', Neurorehabilitation and neural repair, 28, (8) pp. 800-12. ISSN 1545-9683 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1177/1545968314521694 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 30Web of Science - 27


2014Howells DW, Sena ES, Macleod MR, 'Bringing rigour to translational medicine', Nature reviews. Neurology, 10, (1) pp. 37-43. ISSN 1759-4758 (2014) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1038/nrneurol.2013.232 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 71Web of Science - 73


2014Pascoe MC, Howells DW, Crewther DP, Constantinou N, Carey LM, et al., 'Fish oil diet associated with acute reperfusion related hemorrhage, and with reduced stroke-related sickness behaviors and motor impairment', Frontiers in Neurology, 5 Article 14. ISSN 1664-2295 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00014 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 7


2014Sena ES, Currie GL, McCann SK, Macleod MR, Howells DW, 'Systematic reviews and meta-analysis of preclinical studies: why perform them and how to appraise them critically', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 34 pp. 737-742. ISSN 0271-678X (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2014.28 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 110Web of Science - 110


2014Vesterinen HM, Sena ES, Egan KJ, Hirst TC, Churolov L, et al., 'Meta-analysis of data from animal studies: a practical guide', Journal of neuroscience methods, 15, (221) pp. 92-102. ISSN 0165-0270 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2013.09.010 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 177Web of Science - 172


2014Watzlawick R, Sena ES, Dirnagl U, Brommer B, Kopp MA, et al., 'Effect and reporting bias of RhoA/ROCK-blockade intervention on locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis', JAMA Neurology, 71, (1) pp. 91-9. ISSN 2168-6149 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Web of Science - 54


2013Antonic A, Sena ES, Lees JS, Willis TE, Skeers P, et al., 'Stem cell transplantation in traumatic spinal cord injury: a systematic review and meta-analysis of animal studies', PLoS biology, 11, (12) ISSN 1544-9173 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001738 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 89Web of Science - 80


2013Batchelor PE, Skeers P, Antonic A, Wills TE, Howells DW, et al., 'Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Therapeutic Hypothermia in Animal Models of Spinal Cord Injury', PL o S One, 8, (8) Article e71317. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0071317 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 37Web of Science - 34


2013Collins VE, Donnan GA, Macleod MR, Howells DW, 'Hypertension and experimental stroke therapies', Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 33 pp. 1141-1147. ISSN 0271-678X (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1038/jcbfm.2013.88 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 24Web of Science - 25


2013Dirnagl U, Hakim A, Macleod M, Fisher M, Howells DW, et al., 'A concerted appeal for international cooperation in preclinical stroke research', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 44, (6) pp. 1754-60. ISSN 0039-2499 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.000734 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 79Web of Science - 73


2013Howells DW, Macleod M, 'Evidence-based Translational Medicine', Stroke: A Journal of Cerebral Circulation, 44 pp. 1466-1471. ISSN 0039-2499 (2013) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.113.000469 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 17Web of Science - 18


2013Sena ES, Jeffreys AL, Cox SF, Sastra SA, Churilov L, et al., 'The benefit of hypothermia in experimental ischemic stroke is not affected by pethidine', International Journal of Stroke, 8, (3) pp. 180-5. ISSN 1747-4930 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00834.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 9Web of Science - 8


2013Tsilidis KK, Panagiotou OA, Sena ES, Aretouli E, Evangelou E, et al., 'Evaluation of Excess Significance Bias in Animal Studies of Neurological Diseases', Public Library of Science Biology, 11, (7) Article e1001609. ISSN 1544-9173 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001609 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 161Web of Science - 156


2013Willis TE, Batchelor PE, Kerr NF, Sidon K, Katz M, et al., 'Corticospinal tract sprouting in the injured rat spinal cord stimulated by Schwann cell preconditioning of the motor cortex', Neurological Research: A Journal of Progress in Neurosurgery, Neurology and Neurosciences, 35, (7) pp. 763-772. ISSN 0161-6412 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1179/1743132813Y.0000000199 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2


2012Ankolekar S, Rewell S, Howells DW, Bath PMW, 'The influence of stroke risk factors and comorbidities on assessment of stroke therapies in humans and animals', International journal of stroke, 7, (5) pp. 386-397. ISSN 1747-4930 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00802.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 23Web of Science - 25


2012Antonic A, Sena ES, Donnan GA, Howells DW, 'Human In Vitro Models of Ischaemic Stroke: A Test Bed for Translation', Translational Stroke Research, 3, (3) pp. 306-309. ISSN 1868-4483 (2012) [Letter or Note in Journal]

DOI: 10.1007/s12975-012-0201-x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 8


2012Atonic A, Sena ES, Donnan GA, Howells DW, 'Human In Vitro Models of Ischaemic Stroke: A Test Bed for Translation', Translational Stroke Research, 3, (3) pp. 306-309. ISSN 1868-4483 (2012) [Letter or Note in Journal]

DOI: 10.1007/s12975-012-0201-x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 8


2012Howells DW, Sena ES, O'Collins V, Macleod MR, 'Improving the efficiency of the development of drugs for stroke', International Journal of Stroke, 7, (5) pp. 371-377. ISSN 1747-4930 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-4949.2012.00805.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 32Web of Science - 31


Chapter in Book

(2 outputs)
2017McCann SK, Sena ES, Currie GL, Macleod MR, Howells DW, 'Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: Important Tools in Understanding Drug Development for Stroke', Neuroprotective Therapy for Stroke and Ischemic Disease, Springer International Publishing, PA Lapchak and JH Zhang (ed), Switzerland, pp. 73-93. ISBN 978-3-319-45344-6 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-45345-3_2 [eCite] [Details]


2017Rewell S, Howells DW, 'The Right Rodent for the Job: Infarct Variability Between Strains and Its Impact on Logistics of Experimental Animal Studies', Neuroprotective Therapy for Stroke and Ischemic Disease, Springer International Publishing, PA Lapchak and JH Zhang (ed), Switzerland, pp. 667-687. ISBN 978-3-319-45344-6 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-45345-3_28 [eCite] [Details]


Grants & Funding

Prof Howells's work is supported by a CSIRO Flagship biomarker discovery program, NHMRC Fellowship, Program, and NHMRC-EU Collaborative Grants. He has held independent NHMRC funding since 1996.

Funding Summary

Number of grants


Total funding



Harnessing the dual roles of pericytes to improve stroke outcomes (2021 - 2024)$862,943
Pericytes are cells that exclusively reside on capillaries and can actively contract or relax to modulate capillary blood flow. Pericytes also have angiogenic, stem cell and phagocytic properties that are important for brain function. In ischaemic stroke, when brain blood flow is depleted, pericytes contract and then die, leading to capillary constriction even after arterial blood flow has been restored. However, after the acute stroke period, pericytes may have an important role in brain repair. Therefore, limiting pericyte contraction acutely while promoting pericyte activity during recovery may be a novel therapeutic strategy for ischaemic stroke.Aim 1 will determine whether acute pericyte constriction of capillaries is implicated in worsening stroke outcome. We will utilise our available NG2-DsRed and PDGFRβ-Cre transgenic mouse lines to selectively kill (ablate) pericytes during acute period post-stroke while using our novel contrast-enhanced ultrasound paradigm to assess blood flow and stroke outcomes. In addition, we will use primary cell culture methods to analyse the secretome of neurons, astrocytes, microglia and endothelial cells following ischaemia and their effects on pericyte function.Aim 2 will investigate whether pericytes drive the recovery process of the brain following stroke. Through our aforementioned transgenic mouse lines, we will selectively ablate pericytes in the recovery phase to determine its influence on stroke outcome. We will use lineage tracing to track pericytes following stroke to determine whether pericytes migrate away from capillaries and differentiate into other cell types. Lastly, we will implant pericytes into the mouse brain post-stroke to promote recovery of the brain.This research will develop pericytes as a therapeutic target for both the acute and recovery phases of stroke, pioneering future ischaemic stroke treatment and providing novel approaches for other vascular diseases and brain injuries.
National Health & Medical Research Council ($862,943)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Sutherland BA; Howells DW; Clarkson A; Premilovac D
2021 - 2024
Grant Reference
Toward targeted drug delivery to the brain using ultrasound (2020)$9,543
All drugs given to patients in the setting of stroke are confounded by off-target effects those drugs have on other organs in the body. This pilot project will take advantage of our newly established transcranial ultrasound methods to establish a new way to deliver drugs specifically to the brain regions affected by stroke.
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($9,543)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Premilovac D; Sutherland BA; Howells DW; Castley H
Can idebenone be used to reduce severity of stroke? (2019)$9,962
There are no drugs that improve the outcomes following a stroke. We have recently identified idebenone as a neuroprotective agent during times of energy stress. This pilot project will investigate whether idebenone can be used to reduce the severity of stroke in a pre-clinical animal model.
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($9,962)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Premilovac D; Sutherland BA; Howells DW; Guven N; Castley H
Can anti-diabetic agents improve blood flow and outcome following stroke in type 2 diabetes? (2018)$24,912
People with type 2 diabetes are four times more likely to have a stroke. Interestingly, common anti-diabetic drugs seem to improve patient outcomes following a stroke. This project will determine whether anti-diabetic drugs improve brain blood flow dynamics during and after stroke to reduce stroke severity in an animal model of type 2 diabetes.
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($24,912)
Grant-Minor Project
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Premilovac D; Sutherland BA; Burgess JR; Howells DW; Foa LC; Keske MAV
Understanding the human ischemic cascade: Improving the process of drug development for cerebral ischemia (2017)$25,000
Brain ischemia is a major cause of death and disability. Drug therapies for ischemic injury which have shown promise in rodent models have had poor translation in human patients. We aim to characterise the human cellular response to ischemia and use injury-reducing hypothermia to identify human-relevant therapeutic targets.
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($25,000)
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Howells DW; Eaton ED; Dottori M; Dargaville PA
Blood-brain barrier energy dysfunction: the unifying cause of fatigue (2017)$99,874
Fatigue can be much more than just a sense of tiredness. It is also a debilitating symptom of many diseases and disorders, hampering peoples ability to perform the simplest of daily activities. The underlying mechanism of fatigue is unknown. We hypothesise that fatigue is ultimately the result of reduced delivery of energy to the brain. We will assess how energy supply is altered in fatigued brain. A special diet (that supplies an alternative energy source for the brain) will be used to circumvent this energy deficit. We hope to establish how fatigue occurs and offer clues to a simple treatment strategy.
The Mason Foundation ($99,874)
Grant-Judith Jane Mason & Harold Stannett Williams
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Howells DW; Sutherland BA; Landowski LM; Eaton ED; Allan S; Morten K
Paving the way for future stroke drug development: creating a new gold-standard model of stroke (2017 - 2019)$442,570
Stroke is a leading cause of death and chronic disability. Stroke therapeutics developed in animal models fail when translated into human clinical trials, due to flaws inherent in these models. We will break through this translational roadblock by using magnetic microparticles to induce an ischemic stroke that accurately represents human disease
Royal Hobart Hospital Research Foundation ($442,570)
Grant - Project Grant Funding
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Landowski LM; Howells DW; Castley H; Sutherland BA; Kirkcaldie MTK
2017 - 2019
Biomarkers for assessing the effectiveness of hypothermia as a therapy in ischemic stroke patients (2016)$412,712
Grant transfer from the Florey
National Health & Medical Research Council ($412,712)
Grant-European Union Collaborative Research
Administered By
National Health & Medical Research Council
Research Team
Howells DW
Grant Reference
Improving Stroke Outcome: Attenuating Progression and Recurrence (2016)$1,926,812
National Health & Medical Research Council ($1,926,812)
Administered By
The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Research Team
Donnan G; Davis S; Hankey Graeme; Howells DW; Parsons M
Grant Reference

Research Supervision

Prof Howells has supervised more than 16 PhD students to completion as well as numerous masters and honours students. Prof Howells is a strong believer in the importance of mentoring young scientists and helping to advance their careers.




PhDPericyte Regulation of Blood Flow in the Brain and its Dysfunction Following Stroke2017
PhDSurgical and Anaesthetic Comorbidity in Animal Models of Stroke: A veil over effective drug development2017
PhDPericyte Dysfunction Limiting Energy Supply in Alzheimer's Disease2018
PhDInvestigating Cerebrovascular Changes in Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes2019
PhDUnderstanding and Preventing Ischemic Injury to Human Neurons: from perinatal ischemia to adult stroke2020
PhDEvaluating theTherapeutic Potential of Novel Idebenone Formulations Following Experimental Traumatic Brain Injury2020